Weeding out the weak?
Acting coach Carolyne Barry comments:
“I think that there are a lot of teachers out there who are on power trips and ego trips and truly believe that by demeaning people they can make [actors] work harder.
“Well, that will work for some people, and [for] some that will absolutely destroy them.”
From Backstage article Crossing the Line by Nicole Kristal.
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Ellen – the featured Actress at one time on the Acting Without Agony site on MySpace – talks about studying Drama at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts:
“I wanted the best training possible, and NYU has one of the top programs in the country. While I had a few great teachers there, most of them felt it was their duty to weed out the weak. I ended up very confused. How was I supposed to be emotionally open and available during a scene, and then shut down and be thick-skinned for the scathing critique that would follow?”
She recalls “only one acting teacher in four years at NYU who encouraged me to continue acting. I felt paralyzed after graduating. I didn’t want to take any more acting classes. I wasn’t confident with my acting choices. I knew I wanted to act, but I was afraid of being terrible at it.”
A totally different experience
In contrast, she describes the Acting Without Agony Academy class by Brad Heller as “a totally different experience from my college training. His approach is that acting is fun and not that complex. When you walk into Brad’s class, he immediately accepts you as an actor and tries to help you get better. He is never mean or harsh. He just speaks the truth in a loving (and often funny) way.”
She says “The vibe of the class is very warm, supportive and fun. I think I would be way better actor by now if I had not studied acting at NYU, and just came straight to Brad.”
The school website says it is built around the lessons of the late Don Richardson who wrote the critically acclaimed book Acting Without Agony: An Alternative to the Method.
John Ruskin, head of The Ruskin School of Acting, notes that “actors must be willing to experience themselves and their feelings in ways other people are not willing. In doing this, they give their audience permission to do the same.”
But to have that kind of emotional freedom, you need support while you’re learning and performing.
And actors are often highly sensitive people, who may need to be more aware of their emotional reactions to situations and to other people – and take care not get overwhelmed.
See multiple posts on highly sensitive actors.
The photo at top is Frank Langella as an acting teacher in the 2005 HBO series “Unscripted.”
Also see the page Acting resources